Paddon takes next step into Super 2000 WRC

New Zealand’s top rally driver, Hayden Paddon has announced he will contest the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship in 2012 with co-driver John Kennard in a Skoda Fabia S2000 rally car with the support of new sponsors and a new Spanish team.

Having successfully won the Production World Rally Championship title in 2011 – the first driver from the Southern Hemisphere to ever do so – Paddon is forging ahead with his international competition goals by climbing to the next rung on the ladder of world rallying. The Super 2000 World Rally Championship (SWRC) is the key feeder series for the main game, the FIA World Rally Championship, and it’s an important and exciting step forward for the likeable and talented Kiwi.

Paddon’s SWRC plan was announced on 20 December 2011 after several months of talks with various European teams and sponsors.

“I am ecstatic about the move to Super 2000; it’s a fantastic opportunity,” says the 24-year-old from Geraldine. “I was lucky enough to test the Skoda Fabia S2000 in Europe a couple of months ago and it was an incredible car to drive. The S2000 is a full blown racecar and is basically a WRC car without the aero and turbo.”

Paddon’s car will be run by ASM Motorsport, based in Barcelona and Paddon, with long-time partner Katie Lane, will move to the Spanish city.

“Several key personnel at ASM Motorsport have been involved with the Skoda and Seat world rally teams in the past and they are very enthusiastic and passionate about this project. The target for the whole team is to win the championship,” says Paddon.

One factor in the team’s decision to move to the S2000 Skoda is related to the fact that Skoda’s parent company Volkswagen has confirmed its entry into the WRC in 2013. VW management signed star French driver Sebastién Ogier last month, confirming Ogier will compete in all rounds of the 2012 WRC in a similar Skoda S2000 car to the one Paddon will drive and thus providing an outstanding benchmark for all SWRC competitors.

“Sebastién is one of the fastest drivers in the WRC at present and having the chance to compete with him will be an honour and also a challenge,” says Paddon. “It will help us to lift to another level and while he will be hard to beat, he certainly gives us a good target to aim for.”

Blenheim’s John Kennard continues as Paddon’s co-driver, taking the highly successful rally partnership into its seventh season and ensuring that as Paddon strives to achieve new goals, he can also count on the consistent support and experience of his highly-regarded co-driver.

Paddon’s decision to drive a Skoda was also influenced by a new relationship with one of New Zealand’s largest motor vehicle importers and retailers, the Giltrap Group.

“It’s a great honour to have a new partnership with the Giltrap Group, largely thanks to Colin and Richard Giltrap, who are huge supporters of New Zealand motorsport. The Giltrap Group is also the distributor for Skoda in New Zealand, so there’s a natural link with this new partnership.”

Paddon has also confirmed a personal sponsorship with PlaceMakers New Zealand, the building supplies company which was a key supporter of his 2011 rallying.

Paddon’s goal is to win the SWRC title in 2012. SWRC competitors are required to contest seven of eight selected World Rally Championship events. Paddon has elected to drive the S2000 Skoda in Rally Sweden, Rally Portugal, Rally New Zealand, Rally Finland, Wales Rally GB, Rally France and Rally Spain, dropping the year’s first SWRC event, Rally Monte Carlo.

“With Monte Carlo taking place in January, we have given ourselves a little more time to prepare for the next SWRC event, Sweden, which runs from 10 to 12 February. It is also going to be special to have the chance to do Rally New Zealand as one of our rounds and bring our new car home for our supporters to see.”

Paddon admits he gave serious thought before moving away from Subaru for his next season of competition, after such a successful year with the Japanese marque in 2011.

“We have had a great relationship with Subaru – we have enjoyed phenomenal support from the team which ran our Subaru STI, Symtech Racing, as well as Subaru personnel in New Zealand, Japan and Europe. It was a hard decision to not continue with Subaru, but we have to keep moving forward in the best manner to help make my ultimate goal of winning the World Rally Championship a reality. The next step from where we were was obviously S2000 so that’s what we’ve done.”

When Paddon says ‘we’, he is referring to the management team which now helps the star Kiwi with his professional rallying career. The team includes four directors along with shareholders of Hayden Paddon RallySport Global Ltd.

HPRG director Peter Swaney notes: “This is a very exciting time for both Hayden and HPRG as we continue to move forward in the WRC. Of course the biggest battle is funding but we are very lucky to have a large group of passionate supporters from New Zealand behind us. The hard work will continue throughout the year and into next year as we continue to look for opportunities to keep the momentum going.

“The formation of HPRG at the start of 2011 has been pivotal in continuing success for Hayden’s career and allowing him to follow the dream he and so many of his supporters share. Not all the funding is currently in place for 2012 but the company is working hard to secure this, as well as starting planning for 2013 which will involve Hayden piloting a WRC car. In the meantime, 2012 promises to be an exiting year.”

The team has launched a brand-new website to coincide with this SWRC announcement and they also share news and results via text updates, Twitter and Facebook.

Hayden Paddon’s 2012 SWRC Calendar:
Event 1: 9 – 12 February, Rally Sweden
Event 2: 29 March – 1 April, Rally Portugal
Event 3: 22 – 24 June, Rally New Zealand
Event 4: 2 – 5 August, Rally Finland
Event 5: 13 – 16 September, Wales Rally GB
Event 6: 4 – 7 October, Rally France
Event 7: 8 – 11 November, Rally Spain